For conceiving, initiating and organizing the area's first Adoption Day ceremony in 2003 and chairing the committee that planned and presented each program since, 6th Judicial Circuit public information officer Ron Stuart was presented with the fourth annual Irene Sullivan Adoption Advocacy Award, which honors an individual who "has gone above and beyond to ensure that children find their forever families."
Retired Circuit Judge Irene Sullivan, for whom the award is named, made the presentation during the circuit's 10th annual Adoption Day program Nov. 22 at the Pinellas County Justice Center.
Sullivan served as a juvenile court and family court judge from 1999 through 2011 in the St. Petersburg/Clearwater area and authored the book, Raised by the Courts: One Judge's Insight into Juvenile Justice.
The Heart Gallery of Pinellas & Pasco, Guardian ad Litem Foundation of Tampa Bay and Eckerd Community Alternatives work together with the court to present the annual award and program that is part of National Adoption Month.
Goals for Adoption Day are to finalize adoptions from foster care, celebrate families who adopt, raise awareness and encourage others to adopt, build collaboration among local adoption agencies and organizations and communicate availability and need for post-adoptive services.
In her nomination of Stuart, trial courts administrator Gay Inskeep noted that "without Ron's vision and dogged determination, that first ceremony in 2003 might never have happened, and our annual ceremony may not have grown into the poignant and meaningful event that it is today."
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Jori Mansfield, a 2013 graduate of East Lake High and a Florida Academic Scholar award recipient, won statewide recognition as the Academic Top Scholar for Pinellas County.
To be designated an Academic Top Scholar, a student must meet the eligibility requirements for an initial FAS award; have received funding at an eligible Florida postsecondary institution during the fall term of the academic year following high school graduation; and be the highest-ranked FAS award recipient in the county where the student last attended high school, with ranking based on the product of each candidate's Bright Futures grade point average and combined SAT score or equivalent ACT score.
In addition to the Florida Academic Scholars award, the ATS recipient will receive a cost-per-credit-hour award established by the Florida Legislature.
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Working on a "Pay It Forward" project, second-grade students of St. Cecelia Catholic School in Clearwater recently visited Religious Community Services with collected food and personal hygiene items earmarked for donation to the poor and homeless of Pinellas County.
During a tour of the facility, the schoolchildren saw firsthand what RCS does for the community and watched as their much-appreciated donations replenished empty bins.
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